Lewis Hamilton has confirmed that it could have been a mistake to make his Formula One debut in this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix, despite no guarantee that he will have a race seat next season.

While it may have been tempting to get at least one grand prix under his belt, the level-headed Briton admits that there was as much to be lost by partnering Kimi Raikkonen at Interlagos as there would to have been gained. McLaren took a similar view when it confirmed that the Finn would again team up with Pedro de la Rosa for the final round of the season.

"I do feel I am ready," Hamilton told Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper, "but Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport, not something you just jump in and do. I've had a fantastic season, but I could have gone there and experienced a disaster."

Despite gaining decent track time in recent tests at Silverstone and Jerez, Hamilton knows that he is missing vital components required for an F1 drivers' armoury, and feels that it is better that he sit this one out and concentrate on racking up many more miles, in a variety of conditions, over the winter.

"It could have rained [at Interlagos], and I've never been out in the wet in a Formula One car," he explained, reflecting on Brazil's propensity for inclement weather, "I think I should gain plenty of mileage over winter testing and learn as much as I can."

Having been linked with McLaren since his karting days, new GP2 Series champion Hamilton knows that the team will not rush him into an F1 seat, even though he remains favourite to partner current F1 title holder - and 2006 champion-elect - Fernando Alonso in the 2007 line-up.

"It's my dream, and I'm at the right point in my life to do that, but I've been taught by Ron [Dennis] and Martin Whitmarsh that patience if a key virtue," he said, "Look at my career. McLaren has made me wait and be patient in everything I've done - and I've won everything. I have to learn the mechanics of the [F1] car, and get to know the team, to really bond with them. The trust I have in Ron and Martin, and in McLaren-Mercedes, goes way beyond anything else. They have guided me all the way."

Hamilton is in the running for next year's vacancy alongside Raikkonen but, until confirmed, faces opposition from de la Rosa and the team's second test driver, Gary Paffett. Paffett is apparently being offered to other teams as Mercedes attempts to land him a race seat, but de la Rosa makes no secret of his desire to form an all-Spanish line-up at Woking next season. The odds remain on Hamilton getting the ride, however, with a welter of support building up behind him following his stellar GP2 campaign.